10 things you need to know this morning in Australia

Stay on target.

Good morning!

1. To markets, and the Dow had another tilt at breaking 20,000 on Friday after the US jobs data showed 156,000 jobs added in December. That was a slight miss but wages growth was running at 2.9%, the fastest pace since 2009 and tantalisingly close to a print with a 3 at the front of it. The Dow closed at 19,963.80, up about 0.3%. SPI futures are looking muted, up just 9 points ahead of the Monday open in Australia at 5732.5.

2. Australia’s big economic news was the huge surprise trade surplus posted on Friday, meaning the nation is likely to avoid a technical recession – that negative quarter at the end of last year looks increasingly like a one-off. It’s largely thanks to the surge in commodity prices. Speaking of which, iron ore crumbled to a six-week low.

3. Looking ahead, we have building permits out today, retail sales for November out tomorrow, as well as Chinese inflation. Tomorrow there’s ANZ consumer confidence followed by the Westpac monthly consumer survey on Wednesday, where it will be fascinating to see any potential fallout from the Trump election and the subsequent market rally but also the grim headlines about GDP that we saw in December.

4. If you’re still wondering why people keep talking about why the level of apartment building is the key risk for the Australian property market, the answer is in one of these charts (no prizes, etc.):

That’s from JP Morgan’s excellent quarterly Guide to the Markets. We’ve got the full presentation, which summarises everything happening in the Australian and global economy from a markets perspective. Jump in.

5. Inside the collapse of Sears. The iconic US retail chain is unravelling, and on the brink of bankruptcy. Sure, there are the structural industry challenges that are squeezing retailers, through competition from the likes of Amazon. But inside Sears, there were challenges too, including from billionaire CEO Eddie Lampert, a former Wall Street whizz once touted as “the next Warren Buffett”. Example:

Lampert has been known to get so angry in these meetings, particularly when he is challenged, that employees gossip about who is getting ushered into the conference room on any given day to “get their knees cut off,” one former manager told Business Insider.

The meetings typically start with a presentation, and then Lampert fires off a series of questions to the presenter until he finds one that the person can’t answer, one former vice president said.

“He would find a hole in the data and then explode,” the executive said. “Then there would be a 45-minute rant.”


It’s a compelling story and with Australia’s retail sector facing some challenges of its own there are plenty of insights that translate to the local market. Read it here.

6. Ray Dalio is an icon in the finance industry. He’s head of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater, known for its culture of “radical transparency” in which meetings are recorded and decisions get taken by weighted votes, with weight ascribed according to how experienced and knowledgeable you are on the subject. Dalio has done a fascinating interview with Business Insider’s global editor-in-chief Henry Blodget explaining more about the Bridgewater culture and talking about tackling fake news. More here.

7. “You have to be everywhere,” explains 22-year-old Eva Gutowski, who has 7.5 million followers on YouTube, but says her fans expect a 360-degree view of her life. Read her exhausting explanation of what that means for her here.

8. Federal health minister Sussan Ley, after a week of mounting questions over what she claims was an “impulse buy” of an apartment of the Gold Coast – and look, we all know how easily that can happen – will be refunding the taxpayer money she used to fund the trip. And yes, she does use that phrase “within the rules” when talking about the trip.

9. Jim Edwards switched from his Samsung Galaxy Android phone back to an iPhone – and can pinpoint the exact moment he realised it was a mistake. Here is his expression of regret in full.

10. VR could be an extremely effective way to manage chronic and acute pain.

Bonus item: The internet is, understandably, going nuts about this:

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